National Heroes

Our heroes were first named in the 1960s when Jamaica celebrated its independence and celebrated what can be termed a cultural renaissance.  The order of National Hero of Jamaica was created in 1965 to honour Jamaicans who fought against colonialism, sometimes making the ultimate sacrifice, and in doing so altered the course of Jamaica’s history.


Nanny is a folk figure an individual who sparked numerous stories and legends. She nimbly straddles the realms of reality and myth. In 1517, when the Spanish ruled Jamaica, the first group of Africans arrived as slaves.

When the British captured the island in 1655, many of the Spanish left, and their slaves became free. These ex-slaves fled to different hilly areas around the island. There they banded together to fight against the British and protect their freedom. They became known as Maroons.

Although said to be small and wiry she is recognized as a champion of freedom, a female warrior who promoted guerrilla warfare tactics against her British foes. She is recognized as a leader who symbolized hope in times of crisis and fostered respect for her own Ashanti traditions. She is also immortalized as a high priestess with great powers. Read More…



Little is known of Paul Bogle’s early life. As an adult he was one of the 106 St. Thomas people with the right to vote. As deacon of the Native Baptist Church at Stony Gut, Bogle organised religious activities. He and his brother Moses led the people in passive resistance to injustice and oppression.

On October 11, 1865 Bogle led a march to Spanish Town and then one to the Morant Bay Court House. There was a clash with the armed volunteer force, people were killed on both sides and the court house burnt to the ground. A price was put on Bogle’s head. Captured on October 24, he was hanged that very day. Read More…


Sir William Alexander Clarke Bustamante, Jamaica’s first Prime Minister after the country gained independence in 1962, was born on February 24, 1884.

In 1943 he founded the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), with himself as head. The first general election under Universal Adult Suffrage came in 1944 and the JLP won 22 of the 32 seats.

Bustamante travelled the world; working as a policeman in Cuba, and as a dietician in a New York City hospital. He returned to Jamaica in 1932, and became a leader of the struggle against colonial rule. He came to the public’s attention as a writer of letters to the Daily Gleaner newspaper. Read More…


Marcus Garvey was born in St Ann’s Bay, St Ann, on August 17, 1887. He left Jamaica in the 1900s and eventually ended up in Harlem, New York. Garvey became a leader of the Harlem Renaissance but, hounded by United States law enforcement, he was imprisoned on dubious fraud charges, and then deported to Jamaica.

In 1914, he started the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), in Jamaica. The UNIA, which grew into an international organisation, encouraged self-government for black people worldwide; self-help economic projects and protest against racial discrimination. Read More….

The Life and Times of Marcus Garvey


George William Gordon (1820-1865) was born to a Scottish land owner and one of his slaves in Cherry Gardens. Mainly through his own efforts, starting with teaching himself reading, writing and accounting, he became a successful businessman and land owner.

He was a ‘free coloured’ and an active nationalist whose concerns always centred on the plight of the poor. After violence broke out at the Morant Bay Court House in 1865 during a demonstration led by Paul Bogle, one of the deacons ordained by him, Gordon was arrested though there really was no evidence of his complicity. He was taken by ship from Kingston to Morant Bay, tried and hanged on October 23. Read More…


Norman Manley was born at Roxborough, Manchester, on July 4, 1893. For Manley achievement of excellence was the norm; he was a world-class high-school athlete, Rhodes Scholar, decorated World War I military hero, prize man of Gray’s Inn, acknowledged as the Caribbean’s finest legal mind, and the first Jamaican to appear before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

In September 1938, Manley was invited to head the country’s first major political organisation, the People’s National Party, by party architect O.T. Fairclough. He was elected chief minister in 1955 and 1959, and led negotiations for Jamaica’s Independence in 1962. Read More…


Sam Sharpe, born in the parish of St. James, and named after his master, is also a folk figure. He is known for his pivotal role in the 1831 Christmas Rebellion on the Kensington Estate ­ a rebellion credited as instrumental to full emancipation in 1838.

Sharpe, a Baptist preacher, was literate, a strong speaker and very religious. Sharpe had read many British anti-slavery bulletins and believed that Jamaica’s only chance for redemption was the total abolition of slavery.

Sharpe came up with an idea of passive resistance and communicated this message to slaves after prayer meetings on different estates. He explained his belief that the slaves had been freed in England but kept enslaved by the planters in Jamaica, and described how they could conduct a peaceful strike a few days after Christmas by simply refusing to return to work in the fields unless their concerns were heard. Read More…


  • “Tortello, Dr. Rebecca. “The Triumph of Will: National Heroes”. The Gleaner.
  • “A New Era in Jamaica’s History: Thr Founding of the People’s National Party”. The Gleaner.
  • “O’Brien Chang, Kevin. “Norman Manley: All-rounder of Excellence”. The Gleaner.
  • “Shakespear-Blackmore, Keisha. “Sir Alexander Bustamante”. The Gleaner.
  • “Buddan, Robert. “Bustamante and Colonial Jamaica: talking back to the powerful”. The Gleaner.
  • “Lewin, Olive. “The Heroes art collection”. The Gleaner.
  • “Our Heritage- Marcus Garvey Jamaica’s First National Hero”. The Gleaner.